Sunday, 13 December 2009

13th December Walk: From Tower to Battery

Sunday 13th December: From Palace to Battery.

A splendid sun shone on the fifty ramblers who turned up for a leisurely and interesting walk in Mellieha.

It started off from the roundabout at the top of the Mellieha ridge and the group was immediately immersed in the simple but effective technicalities that our forefathers used to construct the Girna. The typical example of the rudimentary dry-stone hut that survived the elements for God-knows-how-many years is in a good state of conservation in spite of its location at this busy junction.

Some 400 meters down the way to the palace of Selmun a short detour was taken to visit the paleo-christian tomb hewn in the rock, and the twin resting-places inside drew a lot of interest.
We moved on to the Selmun Palace, which magnificent baroque edifice never ceases to delight. Deservedly it did receive great admiration and innumerable clicks from digital contraptions, especially under the excellent light conditions of the clear and bright sunlight of the morning.

From the palace the group made its way towards the west for some 500 meters before making a 90 degree turn to the north again following a well trodden path on the garigue. Some four Mgiebah were encountered, all in a very good state of conservation, and the ramblers took the opportunity to look closely at the simplicity of the old practice of bee-keeping. Further along the path in the direction of the Xaghra ta’ Ghirdellu we skimmed the ridge that gave excellent views of the valley beneath and the deep blue sea beyond, which was enlivened with a high and colourful Oil Rig being hauled by two tow-boats. The bright sun shining splendidly on the lush green valley below, the cliff face of the ridge of Ghajn Hadid opposite, and the clear blue skies above, reflected a picture of pure bliss.

Traversing the Xaghra ta’Ghirdellu following the concreted lane the ramblers were soon in the east-side of Santa Marija Estate. Their attention was drawn to the rare sight of wild fauna that, in the absence of hunters, flocks to the numerous trees there. Collared doves and other wild birds breed in Santa Marija Estate because the residents there have organised themselves to protect the neighbourhood and the valley of Ghajn Zejtuna, which Mepa was persuaded to schedule very recently.

Stepping all the way down to the beach where parapets “adorn” the fronts of the residential boathouses the ramblers enjoyed a deserved rest and refreshment. Then the coastline was followed right up to the old military Battery which today houses the Tunnara Museum. The Museum that was especially opened for the occasion and it was a delight to see the exhibits there. Mr Tony Valletta gave a detailed and vivid description of the old methods used for catching tuna until some fifty years ago.

Walk Leader: Alex

Some photos below

RAM President's Interview on Malta Today

Malta Today
Interview Sunday, 13 December 2009

Rambling on a minefield

Environmental NGOs like Lino Bugeja’s are walking on a political minefield by exposing land-use cases involving top politicians. Can they take the heat?
James Debono

Back in 1968, Lino Bugeja bought half a tumolo of land in a green area in Tal-Isqof in Marsaskala for an annual payment of €14. Forty-one years later, former PN president Victor Scerri tried to discredit the octogenarian environmentalist by making this land deal public during TV programme Xarabank.

Visibly hurt by any insinuation that he does not practice what he preaches, Bugeja still cannot fathom what relation exists between the Bahrija case and the land he owns in Marsaskala.

“When I bought the land I was perfectly aware that this land was located on a green area, so I never applied to develop this land… Are we going to attack everyone who owns a piece of land which is in an Outside Development Zone (ODZ)? What relation exists between this and the Bahrija case?”

He draws a political parallel between his case and that of Victor Scerri.“Unlike Scerri I always followed the Prime Minister’s dictum that an ODZ is always an ODZ and that there should be no tolerance towards ODZ development, as I never applied to develop the land in question. Neither did I apply any pressure to have it developed.”

But had Victor Scerri not been a political figure, would the Bahrija development have generated the same outcry by the environmentalist lobby?Bugeja’s reply reveals that environmental organisations were very much aware of the explosive political implications of this case, to the extent that they agreed to hold the protest after last June’s MEP election.“Had we really wanted to politicise this issue, the Bahrija protest would have been held before and not after the European elections.”

Moreover when his organisation first reported this case to MEPA in February, Bugeja was not even aware that Scerri was involved.“At the time, we suspected that the government was developing some water catchments as we knew that this area is so protected that one cannot even touch it.” But while insisting that his organisation has exposed several cases of abuse in which politicians were not involved, Bugeja insists that as a politician Scerri should have known better.“As a politician he should have been more sensitive.

One does not have to be an academic to understand that any development in this place would scar the area. As one of the leaders of a major party, he was duty bound to set an example.”MEPA has only revoked Scerri’s latest permit, thus, he is fully entitled to carry out his development.

Doesn’t he have every right to proceed with this development?Bugeja replies by questioning the legitimacy of any development in that area by quoting a declaration made by former Environment Minister George Pullicino in 2005. On that occasion, Pullicino declared that “MEPA is robust enough to provide important countryside areas as Bahrija and Fomm ir-Rih from insensitive development” and that “in any case, up to now not even an outline application for development has been submitted to MEPA.”

Pullicino was reacting to a Nature Trust protest in Bahrija after the Eliza company website had advertised villas in Bahrija.“Either Pullicino was not in control of the situation, or he was not even informed because Scerri had already applied for a permit in that area,” says Bugeja.

He describes Scerri’s persistence in applying for one permit after the other as a manifestation of ‘Oliver Twist Syndrome’, his way of describing the habit of developers of always asking for more after getting their way the first time.“He first started asking to restore the building. The case officer told him no. The permit was refused. He applied again and the permit was issued. He applied again to demolish the building and rebuild it. The case officer said no but the DCC issued the permit. This was not enough. He asked to enlarge the footprint. Now MEPA has revoked the last permit.”

The Ramblers Association turned down an invitation to participate in TV programme Xarabank, arguing that it does not participate in programmes dealing with political issues. They also said that they would have no problem participating in a programme discussing the environment. But isn’t land-use a political issue? And how can one avoid discussing politics in any discussion on the environment?

Bugeja justifies his absence from the programme by insisting that the theme for which his organisation was invited to discuss was specifically that of political resignations.“What has our organisation to do with political resignations? This was the theme of the programme as can be proved by the correspondence which has been published. We are not interested in his resignation. We never asked for his resignation.”

Bugeja insists that he has no problem participating in any programme discussing the environment or the Bahrija issue. That is why he participated in other programmes discussing this issue. Neither does he have any problem facing Victor Scerri on TV, though he makes one qualification: that Scerri is not accompanied in any such programme by his architect Robert Musumeci.“Just as I do not bring a consultant with me, he should not come with his consultant either.”

Bugeja justifies his stand, insisting that he is not prepared to engage in a legalistic discussion. “I am a law abiding citizen but I have always hated legalisms. I have never entered a court in my life… I cannot stand legalistic arguments.”

Bugeja is also skeptical of the success of any MEPA reform as long as applicants and architects look for loopholes in an attempt to find a way to conduct developments in areas where no development should take place. “We need to reform ourselves as a nation before reforming MEPA. We need more self-regulation. It seems to be inherent in us to find loopholes around laws. One should never seek a loophole through which one can get away with destroying the environment, which belongs to us all. Architects and lawyers should put the national interest before their personal interest.”

Lino Bugeja is fully aware that civil society activism is a thankless task in the Maltese political minefield, recalling how badly he was treated by the Labour government in 1973 despite being praised by the same party for his anti-colonial stance in the late 1950s.In September 1958, he turned down the Vittoriosa Historical Society’s request to present a speech to commemorate Victory Day after being informed that the admiral or vice-admiral were going to attend the ceremony. Bugeja decided not to attend. “I decided not attend as I wanted to be part of the non-violent movement for freedom from the shackles of colonialism.”This act earned him the praise of the Labour Party. “The Birgu section of the Labour Party even sent me a letter to thank me, expressing their admiration for my courage.”What Bugeja did not expect was that a Labour government would evict him from his hometown.

“I was immensely hurt when in 1973, just because I had a small summer house in an isolated and cold place ironically known as Siberja in Wied il-Ghajn, I had my house in Birgu requisitioned by the government. My family had to move to live in that desolate place. My wife, who actively participated in Birgu’s parish, had to walk two miles to the nearest church…”But Bugeja is proud of Malta’s achievements as an independent nation.“The major change I saw in my life is that in mentality…the way Malta managed to prosper despite the departure of the British army and also of major British companies like Lloyds or Barclays. Some were afraid that Malta was going to the dogs. Instead we had a new dawn. This gave the Maltese the push to struggle on. We grew up mentally as we stopped being subjects.”

But Bugeja still harbours respect for some of the traditions instilled by the colonial authorities. One of these was the role the British played in fostering athletics and sports and the ensuing rivalry between Maltese athletes and athletes serving in the British services.“Athletics were important at that time because of the rivalry with the British army. When Lino Bugeja won, he did not win for himself but for Malta against the combined services.”This healthy rivalry between Maltese and British athletes also attracted huge attendances for sporting events.“They used to bring their best athletes from places like Tripoli and Nicosia to compete against us.”

Lino won his first 400-metre race in a competition organised by the Dominican friars in Birgu after being encouraged by Father Ambrose Darmanin who also served as chaplain to the army.In 1951, he represented Malta in the first edition of the Mediterranean games in Egypt in which he competed in the 400 and 800-metre races alongside George Bonello Dupuis, who later served as Nationalist minister.At that time, Bugeja’s life revolved around sports but he still managed to pursue his academic studies and interests in history and culture. “It is through rambling that I managed to combine all these different aspects of life for it keeps me physically active while still cultivating my interest in culture, education and history.”

The Rambler’s Association was founded four years ago not only to cultivate an appreciation of the countryside but also “to offer a better quality of life through an activity which does not cost anything while educating people to appreciate something which belongs to all of us.”And what makes rambling in Malta special is the fact that history and culture pervade the Maltese landscape.

“In countries like Scotland where I lived, one just sees stretches of green rarely encountering anything of historical interest. Here one can find cart ruts, stone shelters (girna), statues and way side chapels.”

For Bugeja, the best place to explore on a Sunday walk in Malta is one around Wied Liemu, Ta’ Baldu, Tal-Qattara and Is-Simblija in Dingli.“We start our walks from the Carmelite church which already existed in 1418, then we walk to Wied Liemu and then we go to Ta’Baldu.” Ta’ Baldu contains various archaeological and rural remains. Beneath several farmhouses are a number of caves one of which incorporates a system of irrigation with water gushing from a spring. The date 1629 is inscribed on one of the walls. Nearby, a string of rubble walls of excellent workmanship rise up to five metres.“In 1665, it was described by Gian Frangisk Abela in his Descrizione di Malta as the most beautiful place in Malta.”

Still, the Rambers Association has repeatedly denounced that at Ta’ Baldu, several pathways on an area scheduled by the planning authority - have been landscaped with hard stone and several entrances barred by means of iron gates. Most of the caves also have had an iron gate fitted barring access to the public.Furthermore, few people are aware of these landmarks.“I regularly give talks in schools which are followed by walks in these places. But even when I visit schools in towns in the vicinity of these landmarks… few people have an idea that these places exist.”

One of the long-standing campaigns of the Ramblers Association was to secure access to Fomm ir-Rih. In October, the Ramblers Association praised parliamentary secretary Dr Jason Azzopardi’s historic breakthrough in reclaiming a sizeable tract of relatively unspoiled land, including over 4km of shoreline, in Fomm ir-Rih.“I appreciate Jason Azzopardi’s hard work on this issue, and we also welcome the fact that he has presented a bill in parliament to secure access to these places. But it is far from an easy task, for this requires enforcement. We need to harshly penalise people who block access to public land.”

But don’t people have a right to enjoy their private property?“I am not a communist as I believe in private property, but I also firmly believe that the public has a right to access places of high landscape values. That is why Europe has freed itself from feudalism and is giving rights to the common citizen by recognising such areas as a common heritage…One has every right to own a property but one has to secure passages giving access to these sites.”He refers to the Qlejja tal-Bahrija, where one can enjoy splendid views of the Ta’ Cenc cliffs and which includes 14 Bronze Age silos.

“Why is access to this area blocked by a quarry? At least there should be a passage from where people can pass without damaging agricultural land.”How can things change?“We believe in people’s power. Only when we organised mass protests did things improve. It was only after national protests like the one against the Ramla development that the authorities started moving.”

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Environment Forum Saturday 12th December 2009

Alex Vella's address:

Ser nitkellem fuq l-inkonsistenza u ingustizzja ta’ l-awtorita tal-ippjanar, il-mepa.

Jiddispjacini inhabbar li ix-xogholijiet reghhu qed jitkomplew fuq is-sit tal-Bahrija minkejja il-protesti tas-socjeta civili, ir-rapport tal-awditur tal-mepa u dik il-famusa ‘messa in scena’ fl-MCC mil-mepa bord presedut mic-chairman Austin Walker. Ghaliex ‘messa in scena’?

Dakinar gie annullat l-ahhar permess tat-2006 u issemmew diversi ragunijiet ghal dan l-annullament, principali fostom li fl-applikazzjoni ma gewx osservati certi direttivi procedurali u giet moghtija informazzjoni mhux korretta, li is-sit fil-wied ma kienx dikjarat id-dislivel li fih.

Forsi ma hix inkonsistenza tal-mepa li jannullaw l-ahhar permess biss, meta anke l-applikazzjonijiet ta’ qablu kellom l-istess dikjarazzjoni falza u nuqqasijiet? Forsi l-awditur tal-mepa ma iddikjarax bic-car li il-permessi kolla kienu irregolari? Insaqsi ghaliex din l-inkonsistenza? Ghaliex ic-chairman insista li issa dahlu fis-sehh il-permessi ta’ qabel?

Oltre dan, il-permess li issa allegatament dahal fis-sehh huwa dak tat 2004. Imma dan talab biss amenda ghal kundizzjoni fil-method statement li hareg mal-permess tat-2002. Illum il-permess tat-2002 skada u ghalih ma giet applikatal-ebda estensjoni.

Fid-dawl ta’ dan kollu, kif-thalla l-izviluppatur ikompli xoghlijiet, qabel hariglu method statement? Lanqas il-kejl li kien japplika ghal-permess annullat ma hu l-istess ? U kif il-fatt tad-dislivell tas-sit gie injorat meta dan igorr mieghu implikazzjonijiet kbar ta’tnehhija u garr illegali ta’ ammont kbir ta’ tafal? Mela sewwa iddikjara l-izviluppatur li “jaghmel li jrid fuq l-art ghax tieghu.” U morru araw ix-xoghol inkontrllabbli ta’ tharbit kbir u insensittiv fuq areas mhux inkluzi fl-applikazzjoni li qed isir suppost taht sorveljanza tal-enforcement officers tal-mepa. Ftakru meta tmorru li l-permess originali kien “to reconstruct the existing structures with very minor alterations to facilitate use.” Setghet id-dikjarazzjoni tkun aktar falza min hekk?

Dawn il-fatti gew mibghuta lic-chairman tal-mepa il-bierah biex jaghti spjegazzjoni u jimponi multi kif tmiss il-ligi, imma il-multi jehluhom biss nies bhal Astrid Vella.

Ta’ Baldu huwa post ta’ gmiel liema bhalu u ta’ importanza hekk kbira li l-mepa hasset il-htiega li tippublika dan il-feature f’Gunju ta’ din is-sena. Hemm dikjarat li is-sit huwa protett ghall-importanza kbira tieghu ekologica, xjentifika u archaeologika.

Dan il-feature sabih jaghti informazzjoni dwar wirt kulturali Malti, u sar ghas-spejjes tieghi u tieghek. Ma semmiet xejn il mepa li fil-frattemp kienu qed jintefghu 7 applikazzjonijiet mill-privat ghal-zvilupp hemhekk, go l-istess post. Ma semmiet xejn li hamsa min dawn l-applikazzjonijiet kienu biex jithallew illegalitajiet li diga saru. Ma semmiet xejn li d-DCC diga harget il-permessi ghal-tlieta minnom minkejja li l-case officers , id-direttorat, u sahansitra is-superintendenza tal-Wirt Kulturali irrakkomandaw il-kuntrarju. Komplejna nirrapurtaw illegalitajiet li ghadom qed isiru, u li post protett qed jintuza ghal-skopijiet ta’ okkazzjonijiet socjali tal-massa, bhal tigiet, li ma kienux iddikjarati f’l-applikazzjoni. Issa baqa zewg applikazzjonijiet ohra biex jigu regolarizzati illegalitajiet li saru, u wahda minnom hi biex jinghata permess ghal-rixtellu li diga twahhal, u biex jitwahhlu tnejn ohra. Ghal-liema skop ? biex int u jien ma nithallewx jgawdu wirt kulturali Malti kif irreklamat mil mepa. Ser naccettawh dan?

Ta’ dan ahna ghandna theddida legali ufficjali minghand is-sidien tar-razzett l-antik ta’ Baldu biex ma nkomplux nidhlu hemm, forsi biex ma nikxfux l-isfregju li qed jsir fuq art protetta.

Il-bierah stess staqsejt lic-Chairman ghaliex il-mepa tkompli taghti permessi lil istess nies li ghal hames darbiet ikkommettew atti illegali. Qalli li jekk ma jinghatawx mid-DCC xorta jingabu mill-Bord tal-Appell? Allur ma hemx cans li l-mepa tkun konsistenti u ma tippermettix izjed sanzjonijiet fuq dan is-sit li hi stess dikjarat monument nazzjonali? Sirna li l-monumenti nazzjonali qed jinghalqu ghal-komun u jinfethu biss ghal-privilegg ta’ min jiflah?

Hekk gara fil-kas ta’ Fomm ir-Rih, fejn sinjur iehor qed jaghmel min kollox biex iccahhad lil-Maltin milli jgawdu bajja mil isbah. Fil-frattemp qed jaghmel sfregju min sit skedat Natura 2000, minkejja enforcement orders mill mepa. Imma ghal grazzja ta’ Alla hemm xaqq ta’dawl minhabba l-intervent gust tas-Segretarju Parlamentari Dr Jason Azzopardi.

L-id il-leminija tal-mepa ma tafx x’qed taghmel l-id l-ohra ghax kieku b’liema wicc tista tippubblika monumenti nazzjonali lantijiet li fl-istess hin thallihom ghal-riehom. Il-kas tal-entrenchment wall go San Giljan illum jinsab mhedded li jitghatta ghal kollox jekk mhux jigi meqrud min svilupp li jaghmel parti min Portomaso. Ser tithalla din ir-rejba ta’ zvilupp go San Giljan wara li diga il-progett originali irdoppja fid-densita tieghu? X’ser jibqa ta pregju go San Giljan?

Bl-istess mod, wara li flus il-poplu gew investiti biex monument nazzjonali uniku bhal ma huwa is-sit medjevali tas-Simblija jigi restawrat kif xieraq, u il-mepa irreklamatu prominentament fuq il-media, illum qed jithalla abbandunat. Individwi tal-inhawi li l-interssi taghhom huma egoistici jaqtghu qalb in-nies li jixtiequ izuru il-post. Sinjali pubblici gew imhassra u vandalizzati. Huwa ta’ ghajb li jithallew sinjali bhal dawn. Ingustizzja li barrikadi u klieb ma jhallux lil min irid izur il-post fil-paci.

Irrappurtajna l-mepa dan il-kas gewwa Wied Liemu fejn hitan tas-sejjieh ta’gholi legali qed jigu mizjuda fil-gholi taghhom tant illi l-veduti tal-kampanja inhbew mit-triq. Dan mhux legali, u jekk nibqghu ma nitkellmux dalwaqt nibdew nimxu go kurrituri anke fil-kampanja. Meta ktibna qalulna li l-permess hareg ghal bini tal-hitan, sa gholi ta’ 4 piedi l-fuq mill-ghola post tal-hamrija. Ahna ergajna ktibna li l-gholi huwa hafna l-fuq min hekk. Ma nehduhiex bi kbira jekk jirrispondu li fuq gewwa tal-ghalqa hemm post fejn il-hamrija hija gholja u allura il-livell tal-hajt inzamm fuq dak il-livell! Jekk inhu hekk wiehed jista jitfa munzell hamrija u jghollih kemm irid biex b’hekk il-hajt jew hitan jghollihom kemm irid. Dan mhux ragunat u gust u nibqghu nipprotestawh.

Hekk ukoll mhux ragunat u gust il-fatt li hareg permess ta’zvilupp ta’ Winery fuq zona barra il-limiti ta’ zvilupp go Tas-Salib, limiti tar-Rabat. Hawn tela post enormi ta’ tlett sulari go zona ODZ li hassar is-scenic value tal-lokalita minhabba l-imponenza tieghu. Qed isir tharbit liema bhalu fil-madwar fejn maquis u garigue qed jigu ibbulldozzjati biex jinbnew hitan tas-sejjieh formali u dritti, li ma jsegwu ebda linja naturali tal-madwar. Ma jidher li sar ebda studju kif tal-impatt fuq l-ambjent jew fuq il-viabilita ekonomika tal-progett, fi zmien ta’ llum meta il-vitikultura ghaddejja min krizi ta’ oversupply. Huwa kaz iehor ta’ abbuz ta’ poter u ksur sfaccat tal-ligi tal-pajjiz, imwettqa min Awtorita li suppost thares l-ambjent..

Dawn huma ftit mil-hafna decizjonijiet irrazzjonali u abuzzivi tal-mepa waqt li qed isir studju tar-riforma. Jidhrilna li l-priministru, li hu direttament responsabbli mil-mepa, huwa obligat li jaghti spjegazzjoni taghhom, iwaqqafom u jirrimedjom. Ahna ma ridniex ir-rizenja tal-president tal-PN u xeni ohra biex kollox jibqa l-istess. Nixtiequ li l-ambjent ikun imhares min prattici malizjuzi, u ta’ dawn nistennew rendikont. Mill mepa nixtiequ innehhu il-fama generali li ‘l-huta min rasa tinten’.

Ramblers again call on Mepa to stop Bahrija works

Ramblers again call on Mepa to stop Bahrija works

Photo supplied by Ramblers Association

The concrete road beside the controversial Bahrija development has subsided due to the removal of clay from the site, the Ramblers Association said.

In a letter to the Malta Environment and Planning Authority, the association asked the authority to confirm that the works were monitored by Mepa’s enforcement officers and carried out according to the method statement.

In August, Mepa revoked the permit issued to former PN president Victor Scerri to extend his planned farmhouse in Bańßrija. The decision, however, did not affect an earlier permit, issued in 2003 and amended in 2005, for the reconstruction of a dilapidated farmhouse on the site.

The ramblers said today that the size of the disturbed site increased in spite of the fact the permit now in force specified a smaller footprint.

They said that the board exhibiting the permits was dislodged from its position and the permit forms removed.

The association said that the new method statement reportedly issued by Mepa last week was not traceable on the authority’s website.

It said that more blue clay was carted away from site. This was not permitted by law.

The ramblers called on the authority to stop the works in view of these developments or to give a satisfactory explanation.

Sunday, 6 December 2009



The Ramblers’ Association of Malta (RAM) was vindicated in its decision not to participate in Friday’s edition of Xarabank ‘Rizenji politici’. Peppi Azzopardi was informed that the Association is apolitical and will not be led into political issues. However RAM is disappointed that Peppi Azzopardi did not explain clearly the reasons why RAM did not participate. He failed to make any reference to our last letter dated 30 November. Nor was this letter uploaded on the Xarabank site as Mr Azzopardi announced. At best this is unprofessional journalism, at worst downright dishonesty.

As expected, Dr Scerri and Mr Musumeci immediately hijacked the Xarabank discussion to a political debate arena, with a selected audience put on to boot. The environment does not belong to any party and should stand aloof from politics. How pathetic to see people clapping on hearing statements by Dr Scerri of the type “With my land I do what I want.” Such programmes do not make for serious discussions on environmental themes. The high protection afforded to the site at Bahrija by Mepa itself, and the environmental outrage being committed there, were hardly ever mentioned.

What came out loud and clear from the programme is the immoral fibre of the protagonist, Dr Victor Scerri. His personal insinuations against Mr Lino Bugeja, the RAM president, were as dishonest and deceitful as his infamous Bahrija application, in the name of his wife, “to reconstruct the existing structures with very minor alterations to facilitate use.”

Dr Scerri was equally dishonest in stating half-truths: He states that Lino Bugeja owns a parcel of land, but leaves out the fact that Lino Bugeja owns only one quarter of it measuring half a tumolo. He states that Lino Bugeja purchased the land in ODZ but leaves out the fact that the land was purchased over 40 years ago. Dr Scerri was malicious not to say that in all these years Lino Bugeja never ever put in a development application with Mepa because he accepted, and still accepts, that his land was ODZ. Being an honest citizen Lino Bugeja abided by the laws of the land.

Not so Dr Scerri, who wittingly purchased land with an uninhabitable structure in a protected area only 10 years ago; his sole purpose was to erect a villa in ODZ, in scheduled and protected ODZ; he commissioned fellow Nationalist architect to work round the laws of the land, flouting them professionally; he then went about with works without respect for the protected ambience of the place and with flagrant disregard to the Method Statement that Mepa imposed on the site. It must be added that the Mepa boards were always ever so kind and obliging.

There is much more to be said. To rebut all the incorrect statements and half truths made during the programme would take more space than this paper can afford, so RAM leaves it with readers to determine who is being dishonest.

RAM invites those who wish to learn more of the whole truth on this and other issues concerning Malta’s built and natural environment, to attend the Public Forum being organised by five NGOs at the Ballroom of the Hotel Phoenicia next Saturday, 12th December at 10.00am.

Alex Vella

Hon Secretary

Ghar il-Kbir Walk 6th Dec 2009

Duration: About 2 1/2 hours

Walk Leader: Romano

Some photos below

Clapham Junction

Alfred Moore explaining the cart ruts

Punic tomb

Ghar il-Kbir

Roman Quarry

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Qala development

NGOs insist 'green element' should have prevailed in Qala development considerations

Environment NGOs this afternoon kept up their pressure against the granting of a permit for a development on Qala Ridge, insisting that where policies were contradictory, Mepa should have taken a position which was least harmful to the environment.

The Ramblers' Association, Flimkien Ghal-Ambjent Ahjar, Nature Trust and representatives of Qala council said at a press conference outside the Mepa offices in Floriana that the case over the redevelopment of the Xerri l-Bukkett restaurant was characterised by conflicting Mepa policies.

Architect Anthony Fenech Vella, speaking for the groups, insisted that the 'green element' should have prevailed in such circumstances, especially in Gozo, which had been declared as being an eco-island.

He said this site had been listed as a rural settlement and also a belvedere. And while one policy said building should not exceed two floors without a basement the ridge edge development policy allowed a basement and three floors.

Astrid Vella, speaking for the FAA, argued that in cases such as this, where a development permit was referred to appeal, building works should be stopped until a final decision was taken.

The NGOs also said they were considering holding a national protest next month over the state of the environment.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

"Winery" at Tas-Salib

Ramblers concerned over building in ODZ

The Ramblers' Association in a statement has drawn attention to the building of a winery on virgin land at Tas-Salib, near Rabat.

"This application for a winery was accepted by MEPA on 3rd March 2008. The photo shows the resultant building. This development was allowed on completely virgin land in an ODZ area. It is an example of the constructions that MEPA are allowing on pristine countryside." the NGO said.